Artist of the Week 12/1/2020
When you think of all things pink, a sound that fuses the sounds of Basement Jaxx, Gorillaz, and Tom Tom Club, with lyrics focused on female empowerment and redefining the definition of “kawaii”, think of CHAI. Mana, Kana, Yuuki, and Yuna formed this Japanese rock band in 2012 when they were in high school. The band was signed to US indie label Sub Pop in October 2020 and will hopefully continue to spread their sound and positivity around the world.
Fun Fact: Kana drank chai with her Russian literature professor, thought it was a cute word, and named the band after it.
Review: “CHAI’s song ‘UNITED GIRLS ROCK’N’ROLL CLUB’ screams girl power! You don’t need to understand the lyrics for this song to make you feel good about all things girly.” – Emily, Music Director
Artist of the Week 11/23/2020
Formed by Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce and Darren “Young D” Metz in 2016, Snotty Nose Rez Kids was born out of a life-long friendship between two emcees who decided on music as their outlet for expression. Trybez and D hail from the Haisla Nation, “The People of the Snow”, and are originally from Kitamaat Village, British Columbia. They blend trap beats with brilliant lyricism that challenges Indigenous stereotypes that paint their people as ill-mannered savages. Their music is best described as thought-provoking club bangers. Audiences will dance and leave with a new perspective at the end of the night.
Fun Fact: SNRK won Breakout Artist at the Western Canadian Music Awards in 2019.
Review: “SNRK’s latest EP Born Deadly is full of bangers, but my favorite is ‘Real Deadly’. Their theme of empowerment can be felt in the lyrics and heavy beat. We should definitely be paying attention to them!” – Emily Williams, Music Director
Artist of the Week 11/16/2020
Ezinma’s style cannot be limited to one genre. Her music is a blend of virtuosic melodies and orchestral soundscapes with hard-hitting beats. This fusion, this juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated worlds, allows Ezinma to connect with diverse audiences and communicate her passion in a way that is uniquely her own. Switching gears from her classically trained background, Ezinma uses her mesmerizing talent to forge an eclectic niche all her own—trap strings.
Fun Fact: At the University of Nebraska, she double majored in biochemistry (with an emphasis on pre-medicine) and violin performance and minored in mathematics.
Review: “Ezinma’s song ‘Beethoven Pleads the Fifth’ is a beats-backed interpretation of a classical standard, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Despite my lack of classical music knowledge, you can hear that Ezinma is good at what she does, and see how groundbreaking she is in her music video for the track.” – Emily Williams, Music Director
Artist of the Week 11/9/2020
Astralblak is composed of four musicians/producers: Greg Grease, MMYYKK, DJ Just Nine, and Elliott. Armed with various synths, drum machines, and instruments, they set out to bring a new, exploratory modern sound influenced by the greats of funk, soul, and jazz with electronic excursions, hard grooves, Afro-futurism, and soulful melodies. The band sees the group’s mission as part of a bigger movement. They view Astralblak as “a vessel, a spiritual, sonic culmination of our experiences and influences from our ancestors.”
Fun Fact: Their first group name was ZULUZULUU, inspired by the Zulu tribe of South Africa.
Review: “Astralblak has a sound I’ve never heard before. ‘Out in the Woods’ sounds like grimey jazz music, almost supernatural. I think it’s a great introduction to their originality and talent.” – Emily Williams, Music Director
Artist of the Week 11/2/2020
Ric Robertson’s Strange World EP drips with syrupy trance-funk like an intergalactic spacecraft rising from swampy waters at the far edges of the galaxy, crash-landing in the middle of Frenchmen Street. For Ric Robertson, songwriting and rhythm are two distinct musical muscles. “There’s trance music, the visceral dance approach to playing, like the old-time fiddle music I grew up playing or New Orleans funk, and then there’s the crafted narrative and poetic storytelling of a song.” With levity, color, and rhythm, Ric Robertson helps to articulate the creative risks needed to face the challenges of being an artist in this Strange World.
Fun Fact: The EP’s music video is stop-motion animation, which Ric himself learned to do during the quarantine.
Review: “Strange World is a heavy EP, but ‘Louisiana Love Thing’ is lighthearted and an easy, fun listen. It makes me nostalgic for a Louisiana festival or a good crawfish boil.” -Emily Williams, Music Director
Artist of the Week 10/26/2020
Events currently taking place throughout the world only serve to stoke a fire under the likes of Pillow Queens. They find themselves continually inspired by a Dublin that is no stranger to fighting social injustice. Street artists, fashion designers, musicians, filmmakers, and more comprise a scene that routinely champions queerness and marginalized groups—Pillow Queens’ songs of togetherness and unity ring out louder than ever before.
Fun Fact: Their song “Gay Girls,” was nominated for Ireland’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Song of the Year.
Review: “Their album In Waiting is composed of beautiful, thought-provoking songs, but my favorite is ‘Handsome Wife.’ It is an earthy, high energy song that reflects on the effects of being in love, and I LOVE their accents!” – Emily Williams, Music Director
Artist of the Week 10/19/2020
KENDALL ! is a psychedelic genre-fluid artist from the DC, Maryland, and Virginia metropolitan area who loves to make music for daydreaming. They specialize in hypnotic melodies, silky harmonies, and lyrics to fall in love to.
Fun Fact: Our general manager, Tifphany McClinton, recommended this AOTW.
“My favorite KENDALL ! song is ‘Prism.’ Their voice floats above the clouds, the harmonies remind me of a choir of angels, and it transports you to idyllic world. This dreamy love song needs to be heard by everyone.” – Emily Williams, Music Director
Artist of the Week 10/13/2020
Kicksie is a Canadian solo artist who has just released her newest album All My Friends. She began by posting her projects online and quickly gained a following.
Kicksie has a “knack for blending nostalgic midwest emo/punk with a more modern and catchy synth/pop sound, definitely in the musical realm somewhere between Paramore and Soccer Mommy.”
Fun Fact: She has a playlist on Spotify of songs “WE NEED TO HEAR.”
“BANANA POP! can make any season feel like summer. It’s fun and bouncy with super sweet lyrics” – Emily, KNWD Music Director
Artist of the Week 9/28/20
New Orleans indie-rockers Lawn recently released their sophomore LP Johnny. This album is “a massive step forward for the band: intense but effortless, jumping to and from ragged post-punk and gleeful ’90s indie-rock hooks.” Lawn remains effortlessly and brilliantly obtuse on Johnny and is creating timeless music that’s full of energy.
Fun Fact: The song “Jane Ryan” off of Johnny explores wealth inequality and corruption though the story of former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos.
“My favorite track off the album is ‘Sunshine’. It sounds weird, pretty, and fits with the uncertainty of the times”
– Emily, KNWD Music Director
Artist of the Week 9/21/2020
Ian Isiah – Brooklyn R&B innovator’s newest EP Auntie is a liquid funk masterpiece. Full of sass, sexual freedom and gender fluidity, this album is a liberating funk experience.
For Isiah, “The guiding principle, they decided, was to avoid references to music made after 1989.” This album is flashy, retro, and fun!
Artist of The Week 09/14/2020
Loser Company was founded by Mas Kihira and Will Saunders, two people “on a mission to fuse the losers and to unite them.” Loser Company’s music consists of a balance of grit and catchy melodies. Will and Mas were in three punk bands together back in highschool, and that is evident in their sound. Their EP Blueberry Skies is a great introduction to the band and is definitely worth listening to.
Fun Fact: One time Will dared Mas to skateboard down a hill and Mas proceeded to fall and get a concussion. Fun times.
“‘Nightcrawler’ is my favorite song from Loser Company. The melancholy lyrics are contrasted by what I think is a xylophone which creates a unique sound and feeling” – Emily, KNWD Music Director
Artist of The Week 04/20/2020
Taylor Janzen is a Canadian Folk Singer/Songwriter, who recently signed with Glassnote Records last November. Her notable records/singles are What I Do & Devotion.
Artist of The Week 04/13/2020
“Sure Sure is an art pop band from the Eastside of Los Angeles, California. The highly prolific group has been releasing music since 2014 and has already amassed over 30 million combined streams. In addition to receiving praise for their songwriting and production skills, Sure Sure has played over 150 shows in the past two years, sharing the stage with artists such as Young The Giant, Hippo Campus, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise.” (website)
The group Sure Sure is amazing! I was jammin’ with their song “Funky Galileo” when I heard it on Alt Nation. – Lana Braxton (KNWD Freshman Scholar).
Artist of The Week 03/16/2020
Caroline Rose was born in 1989 in Long Island. She graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. In June of 2019, Rose performed at Bonnaroo, where she performed Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Close My Eyes” entirely on the kazoo. It was, as one concert-goer put it, the boldest piece of artistry in the events nearly 20-year history
“Superstar (out March 6), is a synth-heavy concept album, telling the story of an unabashedly ambitious singer’s rapid rise and unceremonious fall.” (NPR)
“Soul No. 5 is one of my feel-good anthems. Sung in her raw, husky voice, Caroline Rose’s playful rap-singing explodes with personality. The lyrics are humorous and full of spunk. 10/10” (Emily)
Artist of The Week 11/05/2019
Mona Haydar is a rapper, poet, activist, practitioner of Permaculture, meditator, composting devotee, mountain girl, solar power lover and a tireless God-enthusiast. She practices a life of sacred activism, poetry, contemplation and advocacy for living gently upon the Earth. She teaches classes, gives lectures, leads retreats and workshops, does readings and performs her work. She grew up in Flint, Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan and has since lived in Damascus where she studied Arabic and Islamic spirituality then went on to live in the mountains of Northern New Mexico at Lama Foundation and then in the Redwood forest of Northern California. After completing her Masters in Christian Ethics at Union Theological Theological Seminary in New York City in 2018, Mona and her family relocated to Marrakech, Morocco.
Her EP, Barbarican was met with great reviews upon its release in 2018. The lead single, Lifted is a visual glory telling the story of what it is to lose and then find yourself. The song was written at a time when Mona was suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her second child.
Billboard critics named Mona Haydar’s debut song, Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab) one of 2017’s top protest songs and then later named it one of the 25 top feminist anthems of all time. Mona is an emerging rapper, activist and artist. Growing up in Flint Michigan as a Syrian American, Mona developed her sound which is deeply rooted in her intersectional identity and sensibilities.
Artist of the week 09/23/2019
Princess Nokia is the alias of New York City native Destiny Frasqueri, a rapper whose proud individualism is related in confrontational, often humorous style. Prior to naming herself after the brand of phone made available to low-income earners in the U.S., Frasqueri went by the names Destiny and Wavy Spice, collaborated with the likes of Ratking, and became known for offhanded tracks such as “B***h I’m Posh” and “Yaya.” After label interest heightened her skepticism of the music industry, she changed her alias to Princess Nokia and built a fan base with the mixtapes Metallic Butterfly (2014) and Honeysuckle (2015), as well as an EP, 1992 (2016), all of which were independent titles. A remastered and expanded edition of 1992, 1992 Deluxe (2017), arrived on the Rough Trade label almost exactly a year after the original edition. Frasqueri toured extensively — including club and festival dates across Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Oceania, and the U.S. — in support of the release. The following year saw the release of the mixtape A Girl Cried Red, which saw Princess Nokia delivering an amalgam of emo and hip-hop. In the two-and-a-half minute song, “Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T.)” addresses everything from soul talk, to her inspiring soup-throwing incident, chews out domestic abusers and racists, and seamlessly squeezes in a shout out Colin Kapernick (porque why not). Here we see an ever-confident Nokia, born Destiny Frasqueri, take the beauty pageant world by storm with a frank attitude, and ‘fits that flip-flop between her tomboy, girly-girl aesthetics, while she pays tribute to Santeria and Afro-Latinas. The classy, dreamy film format her team opts for allows for an old-school feel in which we peer through her altering glasses, exposing us to a pageant in which women of color reign supreme. Frasqueri also takes a moment to establish herself as a role model in the act’s finale – paving the way for little girls who look like her to find themselves, whole and bold, in the stage of their choosing. “I’m not a political activist. I’m not, I’m a healer.” Giving herself time after a successful takeoff rather than trying to ride that wave, Nokia evidently could care less about industry imposed timelines and agendas. This next phase of her artistry, she says, will “center her role as a healer and bruja.”
Notable tracks: “Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T.)” “Tomboy” “Brujas” “For the Night” “Kitana”
Artist of the Week 09/16/2019
“A Dream is U” (Debut Album)
Francis Lung describes his new album as “a kaleidoscopic dreamscape recorded in full audial Technicolor, swimming with strings, harmonies, silver saxophones and merry go-round guitars. it’s the record I’ve always wanted to make”. Released later this Summer via Memphis Industries, Lung’s much-anticipated debut album ‘A Dream Is U’ is bold and ambitious, a magical musical journey informed by the greats but also one that is wonderfully idiosyncratic, the sound of a multi-instrumentalist tying together all manner of influences into one beautifully crafted album.
‘A Dream Is U’ is the first fully-realised Francis Lung record, a studio undertaking brought to life with producer Brendan Williams (Dutch Uncles, GoGo Penguin), a colourful patchwork of vision and ingenuity. “Before we started recording I knew exactly what the arrangements were in my head” Francis says, reflecting on the time spent devising his new work. “It was kind of my mission to capture everything as it was in my imagination”.
Touching upon the universal themes of addiction, faith, and love in all of its confusion, ‘A Dream Is U’ is a collection of characters and stories that plays out something like a Harvey Pekar comic strip; an obsessive chronicle of daily lives twisted into new shapes by the unique mind and manners of their narrator. With flashes of striking colour and an ever-present wry smile, Francis Lung has created a debut album that drifts between simple acceptance and exuberant yearning for more. At times boisterous and radiant, elsewhere contemplative and brooding, ‘A Dream Is U’ feels like being awake in dreams, like stepping outside of the daily rotation; like shadows leaving their dancing bodies to waltz away to their own tune.
Artist of the week 09/09/2019
Mikaela Straus (born December 19, 1998), known by her stage name King Princess, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Brooklyn, New York. She is signed to Mark Ronson’s label Zelig Records, an imprint of Columbia Records.
Notable Tracks: “1950”, “Talia”, “Cheap Queen”